A blaring emergency horn blows in our neighborhood on the first Saturday of each month. It is a practice warning.
And then there is that warning we occasionally hear on the radio. “This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.“
Warnings are important. Unheeded ones are of absolutely no benefit.
In 1 Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul offered a warning. Let me summarize, with some of my thoughts bracketed.
My brothers and sisters, you need to remember some things. Our ancestors were all under the cloud [a good cloud, that one in the desert that signified the presence of God]. They all passed through the sea [the Red one symbolized by Charlton Heston’s magnificent movie portrayal]. These things were a baptism, of sorts, into Moses.
All of our ancestors ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. [Note the connection of Christ to the events recording in Exodus, which had happened hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.]
Our ancestors [if you’re not Jewish, think of them as your spiritual ancestors] drank of these spiritual blessings but God was not pleased with most of them, and God struck them down in the wilderness.
These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” [We don’t think of ourselves as idolators today because most of us don’t have little idols in our houses or go down to the local pagan temple, but what do we worship that is not God?]
We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did. Remember, 23,000 of them died in a single day because of sexual sin. [Yikes! There is lots of that sin today. It’s even been mainstreamed.]
We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents. [I wonder how much I put Christ to the test, how much I try God’s patience.]
And do not complain as some of them did and were destroyed by the destroyer. [Oh my! We Christians complain a lot.]
These things long ago happened to serve as an example for us today. They were written down to instruct us.
So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. [There are a lot of Christians who sure seem confident they are standing with God but then do sinful stuff. I wonder about overconfidence — arrogance. Pride goes before the fall.]
[Here’s my favorite part.] No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. [I have clung to this verse at tough times in life.]
Therefore, my dear friends [it’s so good to have friends], flee from the worship of idols [even the ones that don’t look like idols].
I speak as to sensible people [I love the “as to.” Paul is not saying his readers are sensible; it’s just that is how he is going to speak to them.] Judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. [Special note to fundamentalists of the right and left. We are one body even if you don’t like it.]
Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. [Our false gods are not gods at all; they are demons.]
I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. [Let me offer a couple of example connections — God and demon sexual immorality, God and demon greed, God and demon lying, God and demon envy, God and demon foul language, God and demon gossip, and on and on. Christ followers do not want to partake of both parts in any of these combinations and others.]
Are we provoking the Lord? Are we stronger than God? [Some answers can be scary.]
My brothers and sisters released from the law, all things are lawful, but are not all beneficial.
Paul now shifts gears. He turns from warnings about sinful behavior to a warning about misuse of freedom.
All things are lawful, but not all build up.
Do not seek your own advantage. Instead, seek the advantage of others.
For example, eat whatever is sold in the market without qualms for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” And, if an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any questions about the source of the food. But if someone says to you, “This food has been offered in sacrifice to idols,” then don’t eat it. You refuse it out of consideration for the one who informed you, because it must be an important issue to that person, even if it’s not to you. [In other words, don’t just do something because you think it’s OK. Consider the views of others.]
So, whatever you eat or drink, do everything for the glory of God. But remember, do not cause offense to Jews, Greeks, or the church of God. Do what I do. Try to please everyone in everything you do, not seeking your own advantage, but that of others, so that they may be saved.
You can tell Paul really loved other people and wanted them to know Christ. He loved them so much that he didn’t want to make it hard on them to become Christ followers. He had freedom, but he limited himself for the glory of God and the salvation of others.
Paul began with a warning to God followers about their sinful behavior but then moved to a reminder to a be careful even in what is not sinful. He has warned us of these two dangers.
If it were a radio warning, it might go something like this: “This is NOT a test. This is a warning from God’s Emergency Broadcast System. God has no part in sinful behavior, so stop it. Also, stop doing things that make it hard for people to follow Christ. This is NOT a test. Please stay tuned to this station for further instructions.“